OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

The Future Connection

Pooled micro-financing, mentorships, and customized learning intersect to uncover a manageable education landscape for every unique student.

Photo of Jesse Bania

Written by

Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it reimagine the cost of college?

Like OpenIDEO, TFC ensures equality of access by virtue of having minimal barriers to entry. Virtually any student–beginning with those in high school preparing for their next educational step–with internet access can submit a Personal Canvas. This evolving digital briefcase illustrates the students interests, achievements, goals, and funding needed at any given point in time. Those who lend individually are also required to connect with a student and support their growth and evolution.

The Future Connection is a place where students, investors, and mentors come together to make lifelong learning more sustainable. Stagnant institutional education, the student loan crisis, generational divide, and the need for better social engagement form a fertile atmosphere for change through individual and community empowerment. In response, TFC aims to provide a sustainable funding mechanism in the sense that it is less usurious and transactional and more equitable, transparent, and constructive. This will not only foster a more open and sustainable learning path for every type of learner given their unique interests, it will also cultivate diverse and meaningful relationships that are vested in each other’s experiences and progress. Now that is a future through Higher Education worth aiming for!

There are three major functions of TFC: (1) integrated mentorship collaboration, (2) the Personal Canvas, and (3) the Future Fund mechanism. I will elucidate how the three work together with a story. 

Li, a high school senior, is graduating in the coming spring and has scouted out some colleges, both community and private, that she has interest in attending. Her interests, dance and creative art and movement, open up a multitude of ways with which she can attain both experience and credential. Yet she fears, as is common nowadays, that a private tuition would set her back financially and direct her down only one of the potential paths for gaining a diverse education and set of experiences by monopolizing her time. 

One day she is recommended by her counselor to check out The Future Connection. She learns that she can illustrate her various paths for growth and meeting her goals. She also begins to understand that she will be embraced by a community that will collectively invest in her (at a nominal interest rate of 2%) as long as she agrees to connect and work with a mentor that is also a part of this community (but hasn't explicitly funded her so as to avoid a conflict of interest). 

Li submits her Canvas and in August receives her first set of funds ($5,000) to pursue activities related to her goals based on her Canvas' twelve month horizon. Among those activities are two classes in contemporary art theory and movement therapy (the therapy component was suggested by her mentor as a budding field) at a reputable state university. She also uses her resources to take a variety of classes at a local dance studio cooperative and meets with her mentor regularly to discuss what she is learning from her experiences. Finally, she uses the rest of her funds to enroll in a Udemy course on the basics Self-Employment and Marketing, while adding to her next semester's wish list a course that would give her preliminary understanding of personal website development, at the recommendation of her mentor. Beginning to understand Li's interests, this mentor, a former executive at a local Children's Theater, has connected her with an organization in Honduras that is seeking creative movement therapy teachers. 

Thinking long term with her Canvas, Li sees three years of $4,000-6,000 necessary before feeling confident and skilled enough to take her experience and aspirations to Central America to work with young victims of violence and trafficking. While there she also plans to submit a fourth version of her Canvas to get funded for a Yoga as Therapy certificate, while seeking some grant money and marketing some dance classes locally to begin paying back her TFC loans. Looking forward, however, she realizes that her vision is flexible, as was her education, and with only about $20,000 in loans and a plethora of learning experiences and connections, she feels prepared to find purposeful opportunity wherever she ends up. 

The Future Fund Mechanism: This will operate through both lending and donations. "Future" loans will be drawn from an aggregate pool and will receive a return capped at 2%. Additionally, or alternatively, the individual (or entity) contributing to the fund can opt to donate. Aggregate donations will be tax deductible for the donor and applied proportionately to all outstanding loan principles at the end of the given tax year. Funding per learner will be approved by TFC and the borrower's mentor and doled out semi-annually. Payback begins six-twelve months after the student submits his or her final Canvas, or after five years, whichever transpires first. 

Update to Light Experiment: Students from selected high schools will participate in a hack-a-thon to develop the most unique approach to building a Personal Canvas. In true collaborative and community-based fashion, this takes inspiration from Myles Horton's Highlander Folk School in the 50s, which aimed to cultivate the What and How of learning and growth from within and between students, with the mentor, teacher or coordinator (me) merely facilitating the environment. 

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I would like to test this in non-digital format with both a local public and private high school senior class in Portland, Maine (my current residence). I have a growing relationship with a professional co-working space that is seeking to offer an extracurricular opportunity for project-based learning. Students will spend their time working on their own projects and post-high school plans, while tapping into the organization's network for resources, connections, and even capital.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

I would love to take advantage of OpenIDEO’s diverse community by receiving feedback from disinterested parties, former or current students, professionals, etc. not limited to legal feasibility, behavioral considerations, and user-generated design possibilities. That said, while I do have a network of individuals committed to me and my idea in various capacities, I would also be open to collaboration, or outright team-building, from within IDEO’s community!

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • A student collaboration

Are you interested in the Path to Pitching track we've developed for this challenge?

  • Yes

14 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Spam
Photo of Alexandra Alden
Team

Hi Jesse, Alex from Path to Pitching, this is cool! You should check out Edmilson Rodrigues EduDream idea as there is some overlap. Would love to see you develop it through some prototyping! Would also like to learn more about your interest in the Path to Pitching, how interested are you in our accelerator partners? Would you be able to show validation of this through prototyping and user/stakeholder interviews? Our Milestones are a guide to what we are looking for in idea development: https://challenges.openideo.com/content/milestones

Spam
Photo of Jesse Bania
Team

Alex, thank you for the support! I second all of your desires and suggestions. I am already in talks with local partners in Portland, ME to establish a team and get our "light experiment" (prototyping and interviews) active come January. I can elaborate further with specific names as necessary and will be building out my team as it falls into place over the next week. That said, the interest in P2P is sincere, but could you please provide a link to details about the residency program and a list of accelerators so that I fully know what the foreground looks like? In the meantime, I am collaborating with some old idea partners back in NYC on Personal Canvas design and Pathway prompts. Drafts will be uploaded to my contribution by January 1, with interviews and prototyping to immediately follow.

(As a sidebar: some of the Fund financing, structure, and payback details haven't yet been disclosed, as I felt a narrative to the concept from the student's perspective would be more telling. They are, however, also being refined, and will be a ready component of any pitch to accelerators if not a coming refinement to the idea's profile.)

With respect to Edmilson's project, I do agree there is conceptual overlap, but I do feel the fundamental vision for impact is not necessarily aligned. Having worked in finance for years, I believe their equation is enveloped by money and limited by virtue of who is considered an 'investor', whereas this challenge is trying to reimagine cost (with financing as a factor) of continuing education for all types. With TFC, the goal is to empower students to define the value and path to their educational goals for themselves, our pooled fund, and their mentors, without individuals picking horses, so to speak (which I think is a better analogy than the "buy and sell" stock market these days). In fact, these days the options to attaining 'continuing education' are proliferating faster than any system can integrate, which is why I believe we need to empower students to reflect and define that for themselves as they progress.

I will stop here, though, and leave it open for any follow-up questions.

Spam
Photo of Alexandra Alden
Team

Hi Jesse!

The accelerator partners are listed here: https://challenges.openideo.com/content/path-to-pitching
You can check out their websites as well for more in depth information. 

Looking forward to seeing the prototyping!

Spam
Photo of Kevin Mathis
Team

Jesse, awesome contribution. Thanks for staying involved and commenting on your feedback! Keep up the good work.

Spam
Photo of Mustafa Akkoc
Team

Next Semester , I want to start studying at Rice University in Houston . How does TFC  help me to pay tuition fee for next semester right away ? Assume , I have zero dollars in my pocket and  I am writing this comment from apple store internet.

Spam
Photo of Jesse Bania
Team

Mustafa Akkoc , thank you for your comment. It is a challenging, but understandable, predicament you would be finding yourself in as a student these days. Ideally, high school and college students could be better prepared than that (a thought TFC aims to cultivate), but there are always normal financing channels at their disposal in the immediate term. I would like to emphasize, however, that this approach aims to shift the thinking on how we fund an "educational pathway" from the minute a student begins thinking in such a manner. Such change is undoubtedly a growth process.

Having described that ideal, I would also say that TFC would still offer the platform for a student in an apple store, with no money in his or her pocket, to submit an honest proposal for education and receive funding from the Future Fund prior to the tuition bill's due date. Remember, this is a fund that can dole out money, with its growth and size predicated on individual and institutional investors and donors looking to work with a positive cause: the future of education. The only requirement on the student's behalf would be for him or her to submit to a credit agreement for next semester's tranche and also to connect with a mentor to build out the envisioned pathway. 

Spam
Photo of Mustafa Akkoc
Team

your comment will not help me to pay my tuition fee for next semester :(( 

Spam
Photo of Jesse Bania
Team

You are correct, my comment by itself will not. Putting together a Personal Canvas (or education plan), submitting it to TFC, and connecting with its network could, however. 

Spam
Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Mustafa Akkoc  When tackling tough problems, we believe that suspension of disbelief can help lead possibilities to reality. Let's help make others successful by deferring judgments. As long as we approach our submissions and conversations with respect, openness and understanding, we'll be on the right track. 

Jesse, thank you for the great post! We love how you've communicated your idea in a human-centered way through the use of scenarios. Looking forward to how these provocations will grow. 

Spam
Photo of Jesse Bania
Team

Thank you, Shane! I am excited that you appreciated the approach. In fact, I would like to see the idea naturally build itself out in such a manner. Many such stories are out there waiting to be heard and supported! One way I plan to embark on the initial light experiment would be to empower local students to tell their stories in an equally open and creative way. As you allude to, human- (or user-) centered design is an ideator's best friend. It naturally tests and refines a theory, concept, or idea to be the most empathetic and accessible possible! 

Spam
Photo of Mustafa Akkoc
Team

Please don't get my comments negative, I just wanna see the practical view of the ideas, that's why I comment everywhere the same thing. On this challenge, there are  many ideas as an alternative to following and get the benefit.

Spam
Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Thanks for the update Mustafa. We definitely appreciate your passion and engagement in this challenge. During the early phases of Ideation, it helps to suspend disbelief for a bit. In the Refinement phase, we'll begin to introduce more design constraints to help the ideas become more grounded:)

Spam
Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Great to have you onboard! We notice your post is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have it included on the challenge. If you decide you'd like it included, you can publish it by hitting the Publish Entry up there at the top of your post. Or update it first by hitting the Edit Contribution button. Looking forward to seeing more of you on conversations

Spam
Photo of Jesse Bania
Team

Thank you for reaching out! Just polishing/proofing it up, as I only heard about this challenge yesterday! I plan to post this evening once I get home.